Almost Paradise

This is the poem I read at Sunday’s A Rrose in a Prose.

I have a habit of naming poems after cheesy love songs, maybe because they capture life in all its ridiculousness better than anything like “Guns of Brixton” could ever do. It’s rare for a good love song, outside of maybe the Goffin-King repertoire, to avoid being over the top. Even Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” is pretty melodramatic.

This one is entitled “Almost Paradise.”

Almost Paradise

You’re a traditionalist.

So when the minister says,

“Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I stand up in the back, and all hell breaks loose.

You weren’t expecting me to be there.

Or maybe you


And I answer.

“She doesn’t love him, and she never has.

He was

safe, and he was


But he’s not


And you turn to the audience,

your family,

his family,

and you say, to him, vows near their end,

that you take it all back.

And as his father kicks me out of the building,

you run to me.

And on the steps of the church we lament how late we waited to reunite.

Maybe we were lazy,

but we

won’t be


Not lazy.

Not pre-occupied.

Not cut off from our lives

and this

thing that we should always have been seeking and


Step by step I inch towards you.

“I’ve never stopped loving you,” I confess.

But when I take another step,

to ask for forgiveness,

you lean into me with a kiss.

And then we get in my car and we drive south,

in the direction of Los


And on the way, to try and play it cool about your

years of living with

another man,

I begin to boast of my affairs,

my threesomes,

the young nubile tits,

the cocks in my mouth.

But you’re not envious in the slightest.

You smile at me as if to say,

“That’s all over now;

you can

shut up about it,”

As when the night falls,

and we make love in a motel room near Mt. Shasta,

you laugh at my angry bites,

and redirect them into


And in the morning you wake me up early, bleary-eyed,

but it feels good to be yanked from sleep by you.

And before dark we arrive at my home,

where you are not impressed

with all the books and all the records of my lifetime




And the next morning you organize a yard sale,

removing the


A stack of 8 non-working keyboards hits the curb,

along with my sister’s clackity autoharp.

(“I stole it from her because she never used it.”

“But you never use it, dear.”)

And eight half-working amplifiers.

And a P.A. that screeches and squeals.

And a Hammond M-3,

a gift from Kim Shattuck,

that never worked.

And a Farfisa keyboard,


but which I never learned to properly use.

And you open my closet to pull out

polyester amazements that my eyes once

Bolted on on at the thrift store but which I’ve never worn.

“Eyes bigger than your stomach?”

And an assortment of pills and powders is extracted from my kitchen drawer,

along with nearly-gone bottles of vermouth

and triple sec,

and someone’s skinny girl margarita mix.

And at the foot of the bed, a

box of toys,

dildos and lube.

You pull out a pair of knotted cords,

and laugh,

but it all goes in the trash.

And we’d talked about a hippie wedding:

daisy chain garlands,

naked children running around,

and you holding a newly born goat.

But instead we marry in front of the

family that gives us strength.

And we honeymoon in Rome,

where we watch our wine intake, which helps our


And the flight back is like a

trip to the

next part of my life with you,

in the inky blackness,

a starless night outside the plane that could be

anything or


And when we land,

it’s like the opposite of that, with the

sun shining at PDX,

where we pick up the Flex car.

I’ve long since jettisoned the Scion with the broken dashboard.

And at home, the

dogs rush to greet us,

tripping over each other,

my dog, your dog,

and I command them to hush, and they

obey me.

And we’re exhausted,

and kick our feet up,

and you turn on Judge Judy.

And we watch it, and we watch

Game of Thrones.

And after a few hours of television,

it’s time for bed.

And we climb the ladder up to our loft bedroom,

with Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” along one wall.

And that’s the hierarchy of life now—just

me, just

you, and

marriage. A life together.

And I have faith in you, I say.

And I hope you feel the same way about me.

And I have something to give you.

And I know we belong here, in our

places in the bed.

And I hand you a rose.

A single rose.

And there’s nothing more that either of us need.

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